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This record seems to be a litmus test for some listeners- particularly those who cannot bear hearing a band peform a tune any way other than *exactly* as they did on the record. That group will be severely dissapointed; Becker and Fagin are first and formost jazzers, and on this album they flex their jazz chops to bring some new color and style to their best known songs.
"Reelin' in the Years" is probably the cut that will bug the inflexible listeners the most; gone is that classic (Elliot Easton?) guitar riff, replaced by a horn section, and at a slower tempo, too. But it still swings, in a more sophisticated way. The first time I heard it I thought gee, they've taken away the best part of the tune, but now it's my favorite cut on the album.
"Babylon Sisters" is perhaps the closest to the recorded arrangement, but it too benifits from a slightly slower tempo and a jazzier feel. "Green Earrings" is still the ultimate in cool hipster music, and "Boddhisatva" loses nothing, even without the original guitar pyrotechnics.
In fact, the entire album swings in a way no Steely Dan studio album ever did. I love it.
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on March 18, 2010
Please don't take this as an ad hominem attack, Mr. Bateman (writer of the Amazon editorial review), but are you sure it was this album you were listening to when you said (to paraphrase) "tired", "lackluster" and "play it safe arrangements"?

What I heard was quite different. What I heard was full of life, sharp as a razor and adventurous. I loved the variations and surprises. I loved listening to some of the most interesting songs I've ever heard being played by some of the finest musicians the industry has ever produced. What's more, this recording is absolute proof that Fagan and Becker are so much more than just studio wizards.

Steely Dan is best of breed. An icon of the era. And this recording is one of their very best.
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on December 9, 2003
Imagine all the whoops, yells, and yee-hays from Steely Dan fans everywhere when they heard in 1995 that Walter Becker & Donald Fagen were putting out, at long last, a new Dan release. Now imagine all the groans from said fans when the new CD simply turned out to be a live album, not a brand-new studio offering (we would have to wait another five years until 2000's "Two Against Nature"). As it is, 1995's "Alive In America" is certainly a very good live set from Steely Dan, as Walt, Don, and their ace backup band deliver some very strong, faithful renditions of Steely Dan classics such as "Green Earrings," "Reelin' In The Years," "Josie," "Kid Charlemagne," and "Aja." The performances ARE great. The problem is, the CD is too darn short. I saw Steely Dan on their '93 reunion tour, from which some of these live tracks come from, and, at only 67 minutes, with just 11 tracks, "Alive In America" only represents about half of the concert. You're totally left hungry for more. Had this live set been a double CD, with the *complete* concert on it, then it would've been something truly special. I sincerely hope that Walt & Don will release a more expansive live set from their recent, outstanding "Everything Must Go" tour. Until then, "Alive In America" certainly makes for a nice little souvenir from Steely Dan's '93-'94 tours, but it could've been so much more.
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on August 11, 2003
Although it isn't perfect, I'd say this is one of the better live albums I've heard. Yes, it might have been nice to capture some more of the banter between the band and the audience, but the factor I'm most interested in is the music--and that they do well indeed. At least the hilarious, intentionally irritating liner notes do a bit to capture the off-the-wall personality of the band, including snippets of the touring musicians' concert and travel experiences, among other things. The cover art is even a bit amusing--given that neither subject is "alive", or should be!
The tracklist was definitely well chosen, although I didn't really appreciate it until I actually listened to the album the whole way through. Some of the songs were not the ones I would have chosen for the CD, such as "Sign In Stranger"--and yet how well they turn out! My favorite tracks were the ones from Aja and The Royal Scam, and I was very glad to see them willing to venture into this material.
I also thought the vocals were excellent--Donald Fagen is someone who handles live performance as well as studio work, and sounds just as good either way. You won't have to worry about being disappointed--his voice is just as clear as ever. Mr. Fagen isn't the only good singer with Steely Dan, however. Walter Becker does a very nice job with "Book of Liars". I must applaud the band for the placement of this song midway through the album--it serves as a very interesting break. Even though Donald Fagen is the traditional voice of Steely Dan perhaps Mr. Becker should feel free to use his voice a bit more frequently; he's good at it!
The songs chosen, for the most part, were well-suited to live performance, and lost little in the transfer. Part of this is because Steely Dan does not overencumber itself in studio effects that cannot be replicated in a live setting. The only case where this happens is the very end of "Aja", where there was no effort to replicate the jaw-dropping synth effects, and that is one of the two reasons I couldn't award this album a 5th star. The second problem in my mind is the fact that they changed the pitch of "Josie". Yes, in its original pitch it's a bit close to "Green Earrings", but those who are musically sensitive may be thrown off at first by the change.
Overall, this is a solid live production with few flaws, that gets a good deal of playing time from me when I get in a Steely Dan mood.
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on January 23, 2016
I love Steely Dan. But I thought this was something new. I sampled the CD before I bought it. I don't recall it being a live recording. The CD that I got is a concert recording of songs that I already own. This is not what I ordered... or maybe it is, I am confused. The artwork on the CD is completely different from what is pictured here. Haven't had time to investigate.
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on December 8, 2015
I've worn out this album! I recently bought this CD again because it started skipping on Kid Charlemagne. Not acceptable. The big difference in my mind between this release and the Green Flower Street release that I just purchased is the sound quality and the packaging. But also, the drummers switch from Peter Erskine to Dennis Chambers. Chambers makes a huge positive contribution to these songs in comparison to the GFS songs by playing a little more sparsely but also more solid. Erskine is an excellent drummer and does a good job but in my drumming mind, Chambers is the gold standard.

It's obvious that most of the songs on this release were well honed over many shows and the audio quality is higher than the GFS audio which you would expect from Becker and Fagan's reputation for high standards. It's too bad, since this was the first taste of live Steely Dan shows in two decades that they didn't include more of the songs that show up on the GFS release and didn't take a little more time to make this a perfect release. However, If you listened to Steely Dan in the 70s and forgot about them, this album will ignite your inner SD love!
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on May 11, 2014
I've been a Steely Dan fan for longer than I care to admit. I've purchased their albums on vinyl, on CD, and digitally, some of them three times. It's a nice treat to hear them perform these songs live, and very well done at that. Definitely recommended for any die hard Steely Dan fans.
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on December 7, 2012
I'm a hardcore Dan fan and as much as I'm inclined to love everything Donald Fagen and Walter Becker has ever done, I cannot fully love this recording. Although I was in the audience when "Reelin' In the Years" was recorded (Poplar Creek Theater, Highland Park, Illinois, August 1993) it doesn't improve my view for that very reason. Set simply, Alive In America is NOT representative of the Steely Dan concert experience. I've since seen Steely Dan (and Donald Fagen Band during his 2006 solo tour) live over 30 times. No two shows have ever been identical. The solos are always virtuosic, the arrangements are often wonderfully unpredictable, Donald's banter and Walter's stories throughout are often witty, hilarious, even endearing, and the flow of the setlists is seamless. As much as I like AIA, it's way shorter than any one concert, there is no dialogue, and the flow is choppy when compared to the real deal. It's a Franken-concert, taken from various concert appearances from their 1993 and 1994 tours instead of chronicling a single show. Furthermore, the editing and overdubbing of effects in the studio makes it feel even more inauthentic. I wish, for posterity, that DF and WB would release at least ONE album (and/or DVD) depicting a concert in its entirety. Alive In America should have been (and still could be) released in multiple volumes. SD is reportedly planning a tour for Summer 2013, so if you've wanted to see them Live, you will have a great time. No Live Album takes the place of being there, of course. But, since AIA is the only Live Album SD has ever released, it's worth buying. The Two Against Nature DVD Special is worth purchasing as well. In the meantime, I will keep my fingers crossed for a future release that better depicts what Steely Dan in concert is really like.
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on April 12, 2007
I was looking around in a used music shop for some Donald Fagan albums a couple of months ago when I happened upon this little gem. Being a devoted Steely Dan fan, I decided to give it a try, and boy am I glad I did. I've now listened to it a number of times and it just gets better every time I hear it. That cool, jazzy sound that is inevitably Steely Dan is wonderfully accomodating for a live album such as this, with subtle variations on old favorites like "Reelin' In The Years", and a delightfully spontaneous drum solo in "Josie". Steely Dan generates a cool energy for this live album, and Walter Becker proves that Fagen is not the only one who can tear the roof off the sucker in his vocal performance of "Book Of Liars", my personal favorite.

This album is not just for the hardcore Steely Dan listeners. I would recomend it to anyone brand new to the funky, arcanic world of Steely Dan. And for those who already own every album, well, you can never have too much Steely Dan. A welcome new addition to any collection
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on April 17, 2012
I love this band. Good clean sound, nice song selection and great sounding touring band. This band doesnt tour much and when I realized this was a live recording I was very interested.....could they reproduce there sound in a live setting? Yes to my great pleasure. If you like this bands studio stuff check out them in a live settiing, I think you wwill enjooy it.
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